Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Mindfulness for the Win!


Life has taken many unexpected twists and turns so far in this year of 2020. Those of us in Northern Ca. are once again in the midst of major fires, smoky skies and poor air quality. The news is full of signs that nature is experiencing the effects of global warming, the magnitude of political divide in our country and the ongoing debate of when will it be safe for our children to return to the classroom. 

In speaking with some parents and students, I hear the stress in their voices. The "when will this be over" plea or the "I just want to be back in the classroom with my friends". Stories of children saying "I hate being on Zoom" or "It makes me sad to see all the people I can't be with right now." 

If you are anything like me, there are days when I want to stay in bed, pull the covers over my head and have someone wake me up when it's all over. Of course that's not the most effective way of coping. The reality is, I would much rather be part of the solution than to mill about in the murkiness of stagnation. 

Maintaining a spiritual practice has been one of the pillars of our teaching that has helped me stay grounded during these uncertain times. While it is great to start the day with a meditation, often I find that I need mini breaks during the day to help keep me centered. That's where mindfulness practices come in handy.

Recently a friend shared a link with me full of information and resources from an organization called Mindful Arts San Francisco. They can be found by clicking this link Mindful Arts SF . There is a great deal of information on the site, but the gem for me was found in the resource tab. Within it are links to videos, webinars, trainings, short videos and a few purchase options, like breathing cards, story books and a mindfulness teaching guide. 

The breathing cards are a wonderful tool. If your family doesn't yet engage in mindfulness practices, this could be a fun way to introduce it. There are 50 cards in a pack that are very colorful and easy to follow. What I love about them is, they are simple and can be used anytime to help refocus the body and calm the mind. This can be especially helpful as the school year starts back up and students get back into study habits. We may not all have a cool hammock, like the one pictured above, yet we all have the ability to add in a few moments of stillness in our day. And here's the best news... it's not just for kids. We adults can benefit from them too.

I call that Mindfulness for the Win! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Summertime in Zoomland

We are now well into the second half of 2020. Many aspects of our daily lives have changed dramatically. What was once thought impossible or challenging, has become reality. We often use one or more virtual platforms now to communicate with each other or to work remotely. For those of us within the Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL) community as well as our local youth and family ministry... it's Zoom!

Over the last four months our younger community, ages 4-12, have been meeting at either 10 or 11am on Sunday mornings. With summer in full swing, there has been a significant decrease in attendance. So much so, that I've decided to take a break during the month of August to re-imagine what our youth program will look like going forward. Stay tuned and feel free to reach out to me via email at susan.robinson@cslsr.org with any questions or if you would like to set up a one on one Zoom meeting.

Our teen group is still going strong! We meet every Sunday from Noon until 1:30 or 2:00 depending on how deep our conversation is. This group serves our 13-18 aged teens and is supported by three adult advisors and one Jr. advisor.

Speaking of teens, on July 13-16 approximately 140 CSL teens and advisors, from all over the US and Canada gathered together in Zoomland, for the first ever Virtual Teen Camp. Our camp theme was "Healing with Change" providing us a platform to move through this year of change in healthy ways. Santa Rosa was represented by 6 of our teens and myself. The photo above is one screen shot of what it looked like to be together in this way. Just as in person camp, our daily schedule was chock full. Many of the activities were optional giving each participant the choice of going where they felt called to be.

Below is a list of a few of the activities that were available:
CSL Trivia - Yoga - Zumba - An in-home Scavenger Hunt - Grief and Loss Support - Dungeons and Dragons Experience - Book Club on The Four Agreements -  American Sign Language (ASL lesson) - Getting Crafty - Talent Show - CSL Teen Business Meeting, an amazing workshop on Developing Racial Consciousness and more! There were many silly jokes, music, an impromptu dance party and celebrations for our graduates (we call them Padawan's) as well honoring our outgoing teen leadership team and welcoming our new incoming teen leaders. 

One of those outgoing international teen leaders was our very own Dylan Jansen! Dylan served as both a northern Ca. regional winter camp co-director and as a member of the international teen leadership over the last two and a half years.
He has attended multiple work shop planning events, camps, virtual and in-person CSL conventions, numerous calls and has created many social media posts to promote CSL teens. Thank you, Dylan. Your dedication, perseverance and leadership has been an asset to our local teen group and CSL teens globally!

Even though we are not able to be together in person just yet, remember you are an expression of Love! We are always together in heart and Spirit.

Much love and abundant blessings,

Friday, June 5, 2020

Talking to Kids About Racism

As the recent events in our collective history unfold, there have been questions in my mind. What is mine to do? How do I approach the topic of racism with the children in my life so they feel safe? And what advice would I give parents? Our teaching invites us to turn to prayer or treatment and look within. This morning my prayers were answered in the form of an article in the New York Times, California Addition ~ and in an add I heard on the radio. I love how Spirit works!

The New York times article had 5 main tips. The full article is here > (New York Times ).

"1) All parents should talk to their children about racism."
“We should all be having conversations with our children that the color of your skin in this country, specifically, will dictate your experiences in the world,”  
The article also encourages you to follow the lead of your child. If they approach you, be prepared to have a discussion with them at their level of development. 

"2) Be honest with yourself and with your children." "When talking about racism, it’s important for parents to also check their own thoughts for biases, unconscious or not." 
The article gives a great example of using imagination to enter into dialog and further states that if your children are asking about it, they are ready to listen. 

"3) Have diverse books around for children to read." Personally I love this one as I am always on the hunt for children's books that represent diversity and inclusion. The first 3 books are picture books for younger children, the last is for middle school and teens. They are: Black is a Rainbow Color - Last Stop on Market Street - Each Kindness and Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism & You. 
The only one I've read (so far) is Last Stop on Market Street. 

I'll also add another author that I personally love and that is Matthew Paul Turner. He's written 4 children's books, When God Made You, When God Made Light, When I Pray for You, When God Made the World. His books are beautifully illustrated, non-secular and the children in them represent diversity of all types. While they do not address racism, they do bring a spiritual aspect to the stories that allow children to feel love and loved just as they are. 

"4) Allow for questions even when you don’t know the answers." "You may not have the answers to questions like, “Why is this happening?,” but it’s important to hold space for them and explain how you feel, nonetheless." 

"5) If speaking with black children, let them know their lives matter and encourage their whole identity."“Your life doesn’t matter just because of how big or important you are. It’s not about how great your grades are or how many trophies you won. You matter just because you exist. Because you’re here.”  
I encourage you to read the full article! 

Tomorrow - June 6, 10 am eastern time - CNN is teaming up with Sesame Street with a Town Hall for Children and Families . Here is the Link on how to watch it. -  CNN & Sesame Street 
This is the item I heard about on the radio.

Most of all, keep talking, hugging your children and letting them know how special they are. If you haven't yet joined our Sunday Youth Zooms ~ reach out to me at susan.robinson@cslsr.org for the links. We are having fun staying connected and keeping our Spiritual family active.

Love and Blessings to you all ~ Susan
(Photo credit to Andrew Seaman - on Unsplash)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Quarantine Brain!

I recently read the term 'Quarantine Brain' in a friends post online. In the post, this friend was sharing all the odd things that she had done in this time of quarantine. I resonated with so many of the items. As more and more people posted in reply, it was refreshing to see that I am not alone in the wacky things I've forgotten to do, or thought I did but didn't.

Just yesterday I found a card in my car that I was certain I had mailed weeks ago, but there it was on the passenger seat, upside down under a bandana. Ooops. And then, when I got out of the car and went to put my clothes in the dryer, I realized I hadn't actually started the washing machine in the morning when I loaded it. (Insert eye roll).

Over the course of this time at home, I've forgotten what day or date it is and as a result missed a couple of zoom meetings. I realized at bedtime that I forgot to brush my teeth that morning (Sorry Dr. Bonin) and a variety of other things that I'll just keep to myself trusting you get the picture. Normally I might choose to beat myself up a bit about being so forgetful however, these days I'm doing my best to be kinder to myself.

When it all gets to feel a bit much I remember my favorite spiritual practice ~ Gratitude! There are many things I am grateful for, yet when I'm stuck it helps to have a prompt. One of the places I go for that is Gratefulness.org. What I love about this site is the articles, practices, questions for the day and much more that help me turn my frown upside down. :o)

Sometimes I just want to check out of 'normal' reality so I tune into Pottermore aka The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For those of you who are also fans, or to those families who's children are reading the books for the first time, this is a cool website. It's free to sign up and their are quiz's that will help you find your house. I'm a Hufflepuff. Right now there is a tutorial video on how to make your own Hogwarts house bookmarks ~ and awesome people are actually reading the chapters of the 1st book!

Other times I get lost on Pinterest. This is the link to my page Susan Robinson. I've collected a bunch of things that I often use in our Youth Ministry to complement our Spiritual Lessons. For those of you parents looking for something to get creative with your children, go check it out. I've noticed an uptick in people sharing things off my page lately so I know parents and teachers are looking for ways to enhance this time at home.

Speaking of parents ~ do you know about Storyline Online? It's amazing! There are so many great books that are narrated by famous people, which is cool but it's not the best part. There are links called Activity Guides for each book that detail out lesson activities that you can do at home or (someday) when we are back in the classroom in person.

So maybe this 'Quarantine Brain' isn't so bad. It's certainly giving me an opportunity to re-think how I do, what I do. It's given me the time to practice being gentler with myself. It's also given me a greater appreciation for all the ways our Spiritual community is finding ways to connect, share, pray and meditate together while we are apart.

I would love to hear from you too! What are some of the ways you are spending your time? Lifting your spirits? Finding Joy, Light, Connection?

Till next time ~ PB&J friends.  AKA ~ Peace, Blessings and Joy.
(Photo credit to Jude Beck - Unsplash)

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Resources and Blogs to support Families part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our resources and blogs to support families. If you tuned in last week, I hope you found the links helpful. If you missed it, no worries the article is below, just keep scrolling. 

With the warmer weather gracing our days, I hope you are getting outside more, taking in the beauty of Nature and the newness of life that is bursting with color. For me it is a gentle reminder that Spirit always finds a way to express itself. 

Below are four more web sites that I subscribe to. They are full of inspirational articles, blogs, free, and for purchase material and creativity. If you have a favorite website or blog that I haven't listed, let me know. I am always looking for new inspiration and information that supports growth, mindfulness and spiritual practices.

Roots of Action: rootsofaction.com
Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD has created a wonderful web site on values based learning that supports youth and teens, educators and parents. Her blog is full of wonderful articles that embrace wholeness and well-being. The website is easy to navigate and articles can be accessed through eight core values: Empathy, Curiosity, Sociability, Resilience, Self-Awareness, Integrity, Resourcefulness and Creativity. 

Teachers Pay Teachers: teacherspayteachers.com 
This is another site offering "free" things. Full of educators tips and often free or low cost lessons on a variety of topics and/or craft or activities that match well with Spiritual lessons. The lessons are easy to download and print in PDF files.

Greater Good Science Center: ggsc.berkeley.edu
This awesome site has a blog, a podcast and on-line classes for parents, educators and more. This is their mission statement: “The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.” Free newsletter filled with great articles.

Big Life Journal: biglifejournal.com 
I've been seeing several free offerings from this site and they also have a pod cast! There are several low cost purchase items that come in PDF downloads that are printable. There are worksheets and crafts (I like the affirmation bracelets) to lesson plans, growth mindset conversation cards, book suggestions and more. 

This weeks photo credit to Andrew Ebrahim via Unsplash. 

Sending you all love, light and lots of virtual HUGs. Keep shinning your light and being amazing ~ we've got this!


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Resources and Blogs to support Families part 1

As our time of sheltering in Grace continues ~ I've been reaching out to friends and our Center families to hear how things are going.

First, I want to commend you on the amazing job you are all doing!
Yes, it can be very challenging at times. There are sure to be ups and downs along the way. Nothing about what we are experiencing right now is normal. Remember to breathe ~ reach out for prayer support as needed and know that you are not alone.

Some of the comments that have come up repeatedly is "Where do I go to add mindfulness into my child's education?" "Are there some simple ways to add spirituality into my child's life?" or "What blogs and resources do you recommend?".

For this post I am sharing 4 web sites and/or blogs that I subscribe to. Next week I'll post 4 more. I use these often for my own inspiration and to get fresh perspectives on the latest tools that often make their way into the youth lessons I create. Many of these sites are offering "free" material to families in this interesting time as a way to support you. My personal favorites are the SEL - social - emotional - learning tools!

Random Acts of Kindness: randomactsofkindness.org
If you sign up (it's free) you will have access to recently updated FREE lesson plans up to 8th grade on topics such as, Respect, Caring, Inclusiveness, Integrity, Responsibility and Courage. Book recommendations, worksheets and so much more. 

Pathway2success: thepathway2success.com
This is a great blog for educators and parents who home school. They offer free and for purchase materials that are PDF downloadable and printable with activities and classroom tips and strategies. Lot's of great SEL - social, emotional learning tools.

Adventure in a Box: adventure-in-a-box.com 
Liska Meyers has created a website and blog, often with free and for purchase items geared to DIY crafts, activities, and study guides. This site is mostly for school or home school teachers so it's perfect right now! 

The Child Mind Institute: childmind.org 
I recently found this web site while doing research for another project. I am loving what they offer. Their focus is on mental health and support for children and families. The A-Z tab has a variety of topics to choose from. Make sure to check out the "For Families" and "For Educators" tabs too. Best of all they have resources in Spanish.

Finally, starting Sunday April 26th I'll be offering two Zoom youth classes for our Center for Spiritual Living Santa Rosa families. One at 10:00 am for our 4-7 aged children and another at 11:00 am for our 8-12 children. These will be modified classrooms approximately 30 to 40 minutes in length. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to me via email at susan.robinson@cslsr.org.

Please know that any adult supporting me with these zoom classrooms will be vetted volunteers from our Center to keep your children safe!

Be well and know that you are loved.

(photo credit - Max Goncharov via Unsplash)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Sheltering in Grace & Creating Connection

The world as we know it is in the midst of a Global transformation. At least that is how I am choosing to look at this time of "Sheltering in Grace". Seeing it this way is helping me to re-arrange my thoughts and desires for physical connection to one of protecting those I love. One day soon we will be able to sit with our friends again, like the picture above. (Photo credit to Duy Pham on Unsplash) Until then, know that you are expressions of love and are loved and missed deeply. It is from that place of Love that I share this information with you.

Many families are now finding themselves in the position of being educators and/or monitors for their children with regard to schoolwork and the extended time frame of needing to shelter in grace. That can be a challenge, especially with the media overload on the topic of Corona Virus. Below are a few suggestions I hope will help guide you in this new journey.

Lean into your Spiritual Practice! The first step in any metaphysical toolbox is Prayer. Affirmative prayer has the power to center us in truth with a capital "T". Connecting with one's Divinity and remembering that It, is never EVER separate from you. Not in any situation. None, Zip, Nada! Let that sink into your thoughts and feel its Divine light saturate every cell in your body. If you need a little help getting started, check out the Affirmative Prayer Library on our web site. www.cslsr.org

Your children hear more than you think they do. Even if you are taking precautions with news, social media exposure etc. children (especially younger children) are empathic beings. If your anxiety level is raised, they will pick up on it. Even when they appear to be actively engaged in play, reading or schoolwork, while you are catching up on the latest news and/or talking with friends voicing your opinion on the status of things, they are listening. As often as possible check in with yourself to monitor your anxiety level. Take some deep cleansing breaths, a moment of meditation or reach out for prayer as needed.

Listen to their fears and concerns. Pay attention to body language. Children have physical tells when they are distressed, even if they do not use their words. Body language, temper, excited behavior are all indicators that something might be going on. If your child is acting different, or acting out, you may want to offer an opening for them to share with you what's up. Statements such as "I can see in your face and body that you have feelings going on. I would love to talk with you about them so we can work through it together" creates a space of welcoming for them. Most children are more than happy to share. And, even if they don't wish to talk then and there, your soft approach let's them know you see and hear them. It gives them an open door to share when they are ready. 

Take an age appropriate approach and speak from Facts! While the CDC guidelines are the same for everyone, the developmental stages of children vary by age. Speaking with your 3-5 year old is going to look different than speaking with your 5-8 year old, 9-12 year old and different again for your teens. You may find that your child has heard a rumor or "fake news" that has them upset.
While the news seems to focus on the growing number of new cases or worse, what they aren't sharing are the numbers of people who have recovered or are experiencing mild cases.
This web site https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus is what I tend to follow as it offers a global perspective and includes, recovered and mild case information. Personally, it helps me to know that the majority of people will and are recovering.

Teach proper Hygiene and be a great role model. Who knew hand washing was something we needed to relearn? This is a great time to model what healthy personal hygiene habits look like. Just as children listen to what you say, they are watching what you do. Keep up the great work and have some fun at the same time. If you, like me, are over singing the Happy Birthday song when washing your hands, come up with new songs to replace it. Maybe something from their favorite movie or create new lyrics to the Twinkle Twinkle little star tune. Make if fun and keep washing your hands!

Get creative with connection and checking in. If you know me, you know I love creating crafty things. It's one of the things I miss the most about not being with the children of our Center. Well that and the hugs, but I digress. This is a great time to create tools for connection and sharing together. Below are a few ideas that came into my head. You may have others. Great! The important thing is to do it together so that everyone's ideas are heard and a part of a shared family project that everyone uses.

Thumbs UP: Hand gestures can be a simple way of checking in - Thumbs up indicate all is well. Thumbs sideways indicate a feeling of so-so or meh. And Thumbs down - not so well.

Emotional Charts: Here is where you can have some fun. Come up with the words you want to use on your chart - Happy - Sad - Tired - Excited - Motivated - Sleepy - Cranky etc. The more words the better. Then create a picture, or maybe a color that represents the emotion. You could use emojis or pictures from magazines, weather patterns, or you could draw your own facial expressions. There are plenty of ideas on the Internet to help get you started. Use this chart to have check in's through out the day.

Create a personal Chill-Ville: My friend Brooke Minkel, RScP from CSL Northern Colorado came up with this one. It's a personal place or space where your child can go to chill-out. It could look like a sheet tent in a corner of a room with pillows and a blanket inside or a quiet designated space in your home. Put things inside that bring comfort and calm. Some suggestions are a stuffed animal, books, coloring items, relaxation tools and prompts, headphones to listen to music. The options are as varied as your imagination.

Inspirational sidewalk chalk art: I am seeing more and more posts of children and families creating beautiful sidewalk chalk art with inspirational messages for all of us who are getting out of the house for daily walks.

Zoom - Marco Polo - and more: Chances are you've already figured this one out, or your child has! There are a variety of tools available today to help us connect with each other visually. Zoom offers a free account that allows for 40 minute calls. It is very easy to use and they have a bunch of tutorials if needed. Marco Polo is a free downloadable app where you create and share video messages with friends and family over your phone. If you have family overseas WhatsApp is a great way to text, call, create video messages or voice messages.

Back to Prayer: Creating and supporting each other through spiritual practice at home is as important now as it has ever been. Especially when we cannot meet together at our wonderful Center. Having a daily prayer together or a gratitude practice is another way to deepen your connection as a family. Start each day by sharing 3 things you are grateful for and end the day before you go to sleep the same way. Yoga, meditation and breathing practices work too. What ever fits for your family, do it and do it often!

I would love to hear some of the creative ways you are creating connection and getting through this time of "Sheltering in Grace". Please feel free to comment below or reach out to me personally (susan.robinson@cslsr.org). I look forward to the day we can all be back together again.
My fur boys, Scooter and Buddha, (pictured below) and I, are sending you lots of warmth, snuggles, virtual hugs and prayers of love and light.

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